04/22/04 — Health budget would raise fees for lot inspections

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Health budget would raise fees for lot inspections

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 22, 2004 2:08 PM

The Wayne County Board of Health approved a $7.1 million budget for the Health Department, which includes additional employees, salary raises and fee increases for environmental health services, including those for evaluating lots for development.

The figure represents a 3.5 percent increase to last year's budget of $6.8 million. The budget now goes to the county commissioners for consideration.

James Roosen, health director, said there were four goals behind the proposed budget: employee retention and recruitment, increased revenues, information technology, and patient comfort and privacy.

Three new staff positions will be added under the proposal. Recommendations include a family planning patient relations representative, a translator for the WIC and maternity care programs, and hiring a processing assistant for the dental clinic.

Several positions in the Health Department will be reclassified, with salary increases proposed for computer support, the dentist and pharmacist, and a 2.5 percent raise for the nursing staff.

Roosen said that it has been a challenging budget year.

"How do you run a business with rising costs and uncertain revenues?" he said.

"We are looking at ways to provide services and increase revenues. With the staff's help, we will be looking at some of those options over the next couple of months."

The board also voted to increase some of the fees provided by environmental health. Roosen said that there has been no change in rates since 1997.

He said that in looking at some of the surrounding counties, Wayne County kept pace with Sampson and Duplin counties but lagged behind Johnston, Lenoir and Wilson. The proposed increase would take some of the burden off the need for county tax dollars, he said.

"Right now about 75 percent of that program is funded by taxpayers," Roosen said. "If this passes, approximately 64 percent of our programs would be funded by local taxes." He said the increase will shift some of the costs to those who use the services.

The main rate change would be for site evaluation, currently $125. The proposal calls for the rate to be set at $175. Johnston and Lenoir county's rates are $150, with Pitt County's listed at $225 and Wilson's at $300.

Other rate changes included a $15 increase for sewage inspection, from $60 to $75, pool operation permit raised from $100 to $150, and the cost of water samples would go from $25 to $30.

The changes are expected to generate $246,545 worth of revenue for the department compared with $175,255 from the previous budget.

Roosen said he knows people are sensitive to fee increases, but the environmental health professionals provide important services.

"People will get upset with any increase, but especially developers with several lots," said board member Jeffrey Kornegay.

The board discussed amending the increase to offset bulk charges for developers, but decided to support the budget as it was presented.